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National Transportation Safety Board States Helicopter Pilot Was Disoriented in Clouds in the Kobe Bryant Crash

February 18, 2021

U.S. safety investigators reported that the pilot of the tragic Kobe Bryant helicopter accident was flying through the clouds and probably became disoriented prior to the helicopter crash.  According to the news report, the pilot committed an "apparent" violation of federal standards by flying through the clouds because the pilot was flying under visual flight rules.  Flying under visual flight rules means that a pilot needs to see where they are flying at all times during the flight plan. 

According to the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Robert Sumwalt, the helicopter pilot attempted to climb sharply and had almost broken through the clouds when the helicopter banked quickly and then crashed into the Southern California hills tragically killing everyone aboard the helicopter. 

The Sikorsky S-76 helicopter was not equipped with a "black box" recording device, which is not required by law.

This federal hearing concentrated on the long-awaited issue of what caused the fatal helicopter crash, which will lead to new State and federal legislation. 

The NTSB is a federal agency that examines transportation-related accidents but does not have the authority to enforce the law or pass legislation.  The board submits its suggestions to governmental agencies such as the Coast Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration, which can reject the board's recommendations.

According to the NTSB, the report states that there were no signs of mechanical failure, and the accident is considered an accident.  The board is expected to present non-binding recommendations aimed at preventing similar accidents in the future. 

One potential recommendation following the accident investigation may be to require all helicopters to have Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems.  These devices signal the pilot when the aircraft is in danger of crashing with the ground or a mountain.  This Sikorsky S-76 helicopter was not equipped with the system, which is recommended by the NTSB. The FAA does require these systems on air ambulances.

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Category: Personal Injury

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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.